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[Herald Interview] Samyang CEO envisions elevating K-food as global cultural content

By Kim Hae-yeon

Published : Nov. 30, 2023 - 14:45

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Samyang Roundsquare CEO Kim Jung-soo (Samyang Roundsquare) Samyang Roundsquare CEO Kim Jung-soo (Samyang Roundsquare)

In the journey to establishing Samyang Roundsquare's global presence with its ramyeon products, CEO Kim Jung-soo has played a pivotal role.

Taking on the position of CEO in September, Kim has been a key figure in the family-owned Samyang Group's leadership since 2017, being the daughter-in-law of Samyang Foods' founder, Chun Joong-yoon.

Kim envisions the global market growth not merely as a culinary delight but as a cultural phenomenon extending beyond food.

For example, the "Buldak Challenge" captured in online videos on vibrant and popular streets of major cities worldwide has gone viral in recent years, creating a buzz that transcends culinary preferences.

Kim expresses a mix of pride and responsibility, emphasizing the brand's efforts to establish itself as a representative of both K-food and what Kim calls, "K-spicy." "I feel proud witnessing our products being embraced in China, the US, Japan, Southeast Asia, Europe and beyond," Kim said. "This encouragement motivates me to strive for even greater achievements."

Beyond rising sales figures, Kim notes the surge in new recruitments reflects the brand's expanding global footprint.

Overseas sales, which had around 10 employees in 2015, now exceeds 90, with the Chinese branch alone boasting 100 employees.

"I feel joy when my acquaintances share photos of Samyang's success at home and abroad. This is attributed to the dedicated employees who implement and bring ideas to life," Kim said, stressing that no matter how remarkable an idea is, the employees are the ones who make it happen on site.

Following this year's successes in China and the US, Kim is eyeing Europe as one of the next major destinations for overseas expansion.

Opting for a hands-on approach, she personally visits destinations to secure direct sales channels, having visited 12 countries last year alone.

"Earlier this year, I went to the UK for the renewal of the group CI, and visited Poland in October to look around the candidate sites for the European base factory. I also went to the China International Import Expo in Shanghai," she said.

Kim's strategic approach involves exploring the unique characteristics of consumers in each country to create new demand and opportunities, emphasizing the importance of continually growing in the global market through the execution of new brands and visions.

The very concept of food is undergoing a transformation, leading to a shift in Samyang's business strategy and brand philosophy, she noted.

"From the traditional notion of a 'meal,' which we used to consume three times a day, the term 'snack' now embodies distinctive tastes and individual preferences," Kim explained.

While food's prior role focused on obtaining essential nutrients for health, it now serves a more profound purpose as cultural content that connects people and fulfills emotional hunger. "Today, we embrace the idea of 'eating and playing' together." Kim said.

In this evolving landscape, consumers worldwide have developed a love for K-culture and K-food beyond mere interest. One standout example is the Buldak series.

"It brings me immense pleasure and pride that food, particularly Korean ramyeon which used to be a representative domestic industry, is at the forefront of the K-wave, promoting Korea's culture and identity. We are committed to putting in more efforts to further propel this wave of growth."